Susan Taber Avila

Shoe Stories


My creative work plays on the familiarity of textiles to subtly/subversively impart meaning. The textile art pieces I create investigate issues of containment; the work shown here explores the shoe as a container for identity. This series builds on the embedded meanings and iconic qualities of shoes to develop a narrative. The body of work includes shoe structures, actual shoes and shoe portraits created with my characteristic stitching technique. While stitching is often used for surface embellishment (embroidery) or joining materials, my work is unique in that I simultaneously develop both the structure and surface of an object through the stitching process. I am committed to stitching constructions because this ubiquitous method, prevalent throughout history still has something new to say. The stitch creates a mark, adds color and defines the structure.

"Shoe Stories," includes several discreet objects, as well as a large-scale installation titled "The Forest" which fills an entire room, floor to ceiling, creating an expansive forest of legs. The piece reflects on the idea of population and urbanization as well as the readiness humans have to create faux surfaces to stand in for nature. The fanciful and humorous appearance of the work contrasts to the reality of disconnected limbs and a fragmented society devoid of human contact. Digitally printed fabrics cover oversized shoes alluding to the natural materials seen on the ground (i.e. leaves, rocks, dirt). The "legs" (tubular net and fabric forms referencing stockings) are created with my own innovative technique for creating openwork fabric structures. For nearly 20 years I have worked with water-soluble plastic film (polyvinyl alcohol) to create webs, nets, and lace.

The shoe series reflects on the implied meanings of shoes, their associations and stereotypes. Shoes are a popular obsession for many in contemporary society as indicated by the character Carrie Bradshaw in the popular television show, "Sex and the City," yet they also have a long and varied past as identifiers of status, wealth, and occupation. My work includes interpretations of historical trends and objects, such as the high platform chopines worn during the Renaissance in Venice, Italy, and the red heels that were de rigueur for the French courtiers of Louis XIV. The work also includes shoes as fetishistic or fantasy objects in the same mythological vein as Cinderella's glass slippers or Dorothy's ruby slippers from the "Wizard of Oz." The entire shoe series incorporates humor, color, and text to aid the viewer's perception and create a thoughtful, provocative environment for a visual promenade.

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Copyright 1982-2008 Susan Taber Avila